Collaborative information synthesis I: A model of information behaviors of scientists in medicine and public health

Catherine Blake, Wanda Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scientists engage in the discovery process more than any other user population, yet their day-to-day activities are often elusive. One activity that consumes much of a scientist's time is developing models that balance contradictory and redundant evidence. Driven by our desire to understand the information behaviors of this important user group, and the behaviors of scientific discovery in general, we conducted an observational study of academic research scientists as they resolved different experimental results reported in the biomedical literature. This article is the first of two that reports our findings. In this article, we introduce the Collaborative Information Synthesis (CIS) model that reflects the salient information behaviors that we observed. The CIS model emerges from a rich collection of qualitative data including interviews, electronic recordings of meetings, meeting minutes, e-mail communications, and extraction worksheets. Our findings suggest that scientists provide two Information constructs: a hypothesis projection and context Information. They also engage in four critical tasks: retrieval, extraction, verification, and analysis. The findings also suggest that science is not an Individual but rather a collaborative activity and that scientists use the results of one analysis to Inform new analyses. In Part 2, we compare and contrast existing Information and cognitive models that have Inadvertently reported synthesis, and then provide five recommendations that will enable designers to build information systems that support the important synthesis activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1740-1749
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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